As the shape of independent music becomes more deformed, artists are finding more new and weird ways to attract an audience. Conceptual double albums, week long release parties, promos starring the baby daughters of artists, etc. There no longer seems to be anything off limits. This makes sense considering it’s not the most fruitful of times to be making a living as an independent recording artist. Matthew Houck–like many of his peers–has found other ways to make ends meet while still surviving as a musician (albeit his methods are more traditional than a Kurt Vile parade). Muchacho was re-released as a deluxe edition, featuring a second disc of live, stripped-down performances at the St. Pancreas Church in London. His latest endeavor–like the deluxe edition–is a live, triple LP featuring music from a four night romp at the Music Hall Of Williamsburg. Like that residency, this album feels like one last hoorah for Muchacho. However, rather than resting on laurels, Live At The Music Hall‘s first single, “Los Angeles”, is an evocative look at a re-created and re-invigorated sound.
“Los Angeles” originally appeared on Here’s To Taking It Easy, Phosphorescent’s follow-up to his Willie Nelson cover album. The track’s rather lovely, it meanders and takes great pleasure in the space of a full band. Houck swaggers with a slight lilt and an understated southern drawl. The beauty of an artist performing old songs in a new context is the updated sound that comes along with this re-imagining. The live version of “Los Angeles” finds Houck accompanied by a seven person band and bringing power to a track that rested in its ambivalence. This new version of “Los Angeles” has serious agency–the organ part is awesome–and the result is two versions of “Los Angeles”: the original, and the live recording that would fit in rather well with the rest of Muchacho. It’s hard for any live album to fully encapsulate a live experience, but Matthew Houck has found the beauty in capturing such transitional art by placing the contextual on equal terms with the song itself.